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Two North Carolina Republican lawmakers said that “any effort to raise Charlotte’s prepared food tax to help upgrade Bank of America Stadium would require a vote by the public,” according to a front-page piece by Morrill & Harrison of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. State Rep. Bill Brawley yesterday said, “There will be a referendum.” Brawley’s comments as well as earlier remarks by State House Speaker Thom Tillis came on a day when Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson "formally asked Mecklenburg County lawmakers for state help.” Brawley and Tillis also suggested that "achieving a plan laid out by the city and the team, which needs approval by the state and maybe the voters, may not be easy.” The deal calls for the city to raise $144M by "doubling the local restaurant and bar tax" from 1% to 2%, with $125M "going for stadium improvements.” The Panthers also are seeking $62.5M "from the state.” Richardson told lawmakers, “We’re a proven investment. We’re not a risk.” Richardson was asked why he “couldn’t fund the stadium improvements himself.” His reply was that NFL franchises are “so coveted.” Richardson: “They don’t have to pay for them. There are only 32. That’s the reality.” He also insisted that he has “no plans to move” the team. Richardson: “I would never move the team, I want to emphasize that. I never made a threat to move the team. To be honest with you, it was offensive to me to suggest I would” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/14). In Raleigh, Frank, Christensen, Bonner & Morrill note Richardson “showed up at the 7:30 a.m. meeting after being in Philadelphia the night before to attend a memorial service.” He said the proposal is “time sensitive.” Richardson: “If it wasn’t so time sensitive, I wouldn’t be here at the crack of dawn this morning” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 2/14).
Falcons President & CEO Rich McKay said that the franchise will “consider moving to the suburbs" if the team does not get a new $1B downtown stadium built by the time the team's Georgia Dome lease expires in '17, according to a front-page piece by McWilliams, Stafford & Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. McKay yesterday at a City Council meeting said that the team “would have no choice but to consider pursuing another option in metro Atlanta” if negotiations break down. McKay: “Please don’t let anybody say that’s a threat. No, that’s just a reality of what we have to do as our lease is about to end.” He added, “We could do it (build a new stadium) for a lot less cost (elsewhere). That would not be our first choice.” McKay “rejected the idea of making extensive repairs and renovations to the Georgia Dome.” Several local residents during a public comment period said that they “opposed any use of public money to build a new stadium.” Others “complained of what they called a lack of transparency.” The Falcons late last year reached a non-binding agreement with the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to "replace the team’s current home with a retractable roof stadium nearby.” But the proposal to use $300M in "state-issued bonds for the remaining portion ran into political trouble at the state Capitol.” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the city in recent weeks have “taken a leading role in trying to keep the project on track and devise alternate financing.” McKay said that the Falcons have not yet "pursued any deals or sites in the suburbs,” and the team “won’t consider a move outside metro Atlanta.” McKay: “That’s not who Arthur Blank is. This will be a metro Atlanta stadium” (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 2/14).
The delay in solidifying the financial terms for the Warriors' proposed $1B waterfront arena project in S.F. is "largely because the team is revamping the design for the site," according to a team source cited by John Cote of the S.F. CHRONICLE. A source said that the primary issue with the site's redesign is "the plan to have a backup cruise ship berth on the eastern side of Piers 30-32, one of the few remaining deep water sites along the city’s waterfront." Another source added that having that as an option is "important not only to maritime unions like the International Longshore and Warehouse Union ... but also to officials on the State Lands Commission, which will look closely at whether the arena project includes a maritime use and is compatible with the public trust doctrine by enhancing public access." Officials from the Warriors and S.F. "had been contemplating for months the option of a backup cruise ship dock for day use." The problem is the initial location of the arena, "basically angled into the southeast corner of the 13-acre pier, with part of the arena jutting out over the eastern edge, doesn’t have enough room to berth a cruise ship there." The design team "is now looking at moving the arena away from the eastern edge of the pier." But to preserve the team’s commitment to having at least 50% of the site as public open space, "that would mean shrinking or reworking something else, like the planned 105,000 square feet of retail space." That "could impact the bottom line" (SFGATE.com, 2/13).
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday said that there is a "deal to be made" between the Cubs and local rooftop owners that would generate the $300M needed to renovate Wrigley Field "if only the competing parties would 'seize it,'" according to Fran Spielman of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. A "frustrated" Emanuel had hoped to "nail down an elusive agreement on the Cubs request to lift restrictions on outfield signs and night games and open Sheffield Avenue for street fairs on game days in time to introduce an ordinance authorizing more night games" at yesterday’s City Council meeting. He was "prepared to lift the 30-night games-per-season ceiling to the 37-to-44 range, with some of the dates reserved for concerts." Additional 3:05pm CT starts also could "be part of the mix." But the meeting yesterday "came and went with no night game ordinance because there is no agreement on the stickier issue of stadium signs that threaten to block the rooftops birdseye view." Emanuel said, "We’re not gonna break off a piece as it relates to that ordinance, which is on night games. It’s all one piece. We’re gonna do this comprehensively. There’s an agreement to be had. It’s right there. All you need is a little leadership and a little will." Spielman notes when Emanuel was "pressed to pinpoint the hangup," he "refused to negotiate in public." City Alderman Tom Tunney said that he "won't lift the 30-game ceiling on night games unless it's part of a larger deal." Tunney said, "It’s a lot more detailed than just night games. It’s night games. It’s signage. It’s hotels. It’s public safety. There’s so many things" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/14).
The Chargers have the "option of tarping off seats" at Qualcomm Stadium, but Chargers PR Dir Bill Johnston indicated that fans should "forget about it," according to Tom Krasovic of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Johnston in an e-mail wrote, "We just lowered the price of 10,000 season seats in an effort to help fill the stadium and enhance our homefield advantage. Combine the lower price with one of the most attractive and competitive home schedules in memory and we’re optimistic about our chances." The Raiders last week announced plans to put a tarp over 10,000 seats at O.co Coliseum for home games (UTSANDIEGO.com, 2/11). Meanwhile, in San Diego, Jonathan Horn wondered what the possibility is of the Chargers "moving to San Antonio if they fail to get a new stadium." Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, "You'd have to ask the Spanos family. Dean is a good friend and I would be lying if I didn't tell you, come to Texas and we would love to have their athletic club there. But there's a family whose been there forever. If it gets so difficult for them to be able to operate, that's always an option, but again you'd have to ask them. I have no indication that the Chargers are going to be coming to Texas" (UTSANDIEGO.com, 2/13).
NOT A TREND TEAMS WANT: CSNBayArea.com’s Andy Dolich noted putting a tarp up in the upper deck of stadiums is "not a trend that you want because it shows that you're not attracting as many fans as you hope to.” Dolich noted while the Raiders have proactively stated they want to stay in Oakland, shrinking the stadium "to become the smallest capacity stadium for NFL football, that's a bad sign." Dolich: "Of course, going against the 49ers and that new, miraculous stadium coming out of the ground, the timing couldn't be worse." He dismissed the idea that tarping off seats could be a “strategy” by the Raiders to move to L.A. Dolich said, "I don't think the Raiders are going anyplace, unless they're going to Santa Clara. They are trying to figure out what to do with building a new stadium, and I don't think this necessarily helps" ("Chronicle Live,” Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/13).
In Chicago, Ellen Jean Hirst notes the Chicago Park District BOD last night "approved a new 10-year contract" for SMG to manage Soldier Field. The decision came after an "extensive" presentation by the company and President & CEO Wes Westley. Chicago Park District Budget Dir Juliet Azimi said that SMG "received higher scores in every category compared to the other contender for the contract, AEG." SMG will make a $2.5M "contribution to the park district" and will secure a $1M marketing fund for events at Soldier Field. The company will receive an "annual management fee of between $600,000 and $684,000 to run Soldier Field and two other facilities." SMG has managed Soldier Field "under various contracts" since '94 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/14).
HOME & GARDEN: In N.Y., Michael Kimmelman notes the owners of MSG are looking to N.Y. officials to "renew -- in perpetuity -- the special permit that allows them to operate an arena atop Penn Station." It is a request the City Council "should deny." The Council could "grant a 10-year permit, enough time so that the Garden and the various parties responsible for the station can come up with an appropriately aggressive plan to improve the site, a plan that should include discussions about a possible future home, elsewhere, for the arena" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/14).
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: In Denver, Benjamin Hochman notes the Nuggets last night played the team's first game at Barclays Center and writes under the header, "You Must See Brooklyn's Barclays Center To Believe It." Hochman: "The arena is pretty cool, I must say." There is a "good vibe in here and a cool vibe around here." The crowd is "as eclectic as the borough" (DENVER POST, 2/14).